Tesco backs pricing call over binge drinking

The supermarket giant Tesco today said it wanted to work with the Government on new laws to ensure the "responsible pricing" of alcohol.

The move comes as The British Medical Association (BMA) was later expected to urge ministers to take greater action to cut alcohol abuse.

There is widespread concern that cut-price alcohol is fuelling the problems of binge-drinking and alcohol-related crime and disorder.

Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket, says the Government must deal with the issue because supermarkets are barred by competition laws from taking action together to raise prices, while customers would simply go elsewhere if they acted unilaterally.

The supermarkets have faced criticism for selling alcohol at heavily reduced prices - sometimes below the wholesale cost - as a "loss leader".

Campaign groups have also expressed outrage that in some cases alcohol can be cheaper than bottled water.

Tesco's Chief Executive, Sir Terry Leahy, has told Prime Minister Gordon Brown that the supermarket is willing to work with others in the industry, as well as Government experts and the police to tackle concern over lower-priced alcohol.

Executive Director for Corporate and Legal Affairs, Lucy Neville-Rolfe, said it was too simplistic to blame binge drinking on price alone.

"However, supermarkets do sell a lot of alcohol and we accept that we have a role to play in addressing the problem of anti-social drinking," she said.

"We need to better understand the impact of price and be mindful of the fact that the vast majority of people consume alcohol responsibly and shouldn't be penalised for the actions of less responsible drinkers.

"To get this understanding and move forward, all shops that sell alcohol need to act together - and this is where we are being held back by the law.

"Competition law prevents businesses discussing anything to do with price with each other and imposes severe penalties on anyone who breaches it.

"The only safe solution is for the Government to initiate and lead these discussions and to bring forward legislative proposals which Tesco and others in our industry can support.

"Such proposals would have to apply to all retailers of alcohol otherwise they would be ineffective as those looking for cheap alcohol would simply shop with lower-priced operators not covered by the legislation, undermining our business and achieving nothing.

"If ministers act we pledge our support in helping to develop proposals and make the legislation work."

The BMA was today expected to call for a raft of measures to be introduced to stop alcohol abuse, particularly among youngsters and teenage girls, spiralling out of control.

UK teenagers are among the most likely in Europe to report heavy drinking and being intoxicated.

The BMA was expected to call for higher taxes on alcoholic drinks, an end to "irresponsible" promotional activities, and a reduction in the drink-driving limit.

It believes price increases can result in reduced consumption and that longer opening hours are associated with increased alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems.

Since 1997, taxes on wine and beer in the UK have only increased in line with inflation while taxes on spirits have not increased at all.

Earlier this month, Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) called on the country to wake up to the epidemic of binge-drinking among teenagers and the misery it causes.

He condemned the drinks industry for targeting the young and exporting its "negative costs onto the streets, hospitals and into the criminal justice system".

The warning came after a spate of high-profile crimes involving underage drinkers, including the murder of Garry Newlove.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has also announced that police will have tougher powers to confiscate booze from underage drinkers.

And Government-commissioned auditors KPMG will carry out a review of whether pubs, clubs, off-licenses and supermarkets are abiding by alcohol industry standards.

It will focus on cut-price drink promotions and a change in the law to force retailers to act responsibly has not been ruled out.

Figures released last month by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed alcohol-related deaths doubled between 1991 and 2006 (from 6.9 per 100,000 in 1991).

The number of actual deaths more than doubled from 4,144 in 1991 to 8,758 in 2006.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before